Add two more cities to area wireless network 

With the addition late last week of two more cities to the Peninsula’s public wireless Internet initiative, officials stand poised to create one of the largest WiFi networks in the country, stretching from Daly City to Gilroy, when they select a vendor

today.

Los Altos and Cupertino, both in Santa Clara County, joined the initiative at the end of last week, making a full complement of cities from both San Mateo and Santa Clara counties.

One of three vendors is scheduled to be selected today to build the system using antennas installed on utility light poles along El Camino Real as a backbone to deliver service to that could stretch over 1,500 square miles and serve as many as 2.5 million people, officials said.

"It’s a very big step because its one of the largest wireless broadband networks anywhere and will be watched by a lot of people," said Brian Moura, San Mateo County Telecommunications Authority chairman and San Carlos assistant city manager.

MetroFi, of Mountain View,

VeriLan, from Portland, Ore., and Metro Connect (a joint effort involving Azulstar, Cisco and IBM) are among the companies still in the running.

The proposed wireless network would offer multiple tiers of service ranging from free outdoor service at slower speeds to paid indoor high-speed residential and commercial delivery. Tiers for secure government and emergency personnel use could also be added, according to proposals by each of the companies.

Installation could take about nine months to one year, Moura said. Users would be able to access the Internet wirelessly using computers, cellular phones or PDAs from city parks, public buildings and even cars, if stationary, creating one of the most mobile workforces anywhere, according to officials.

Current technology doesn’t yet allow for smooth handoffs of wireless connections in a mobile vehicle at an affordable commercial price, Moura said.

"People will want to come here to see what it’s like to be in the best-connected economy in the world," according to Dan Fenton, co-chair of Wireless Silicon Valley and CEO of the San Jose Convention Center and Visitors Bureau.

Once complete, the network will include all San Mateo and Santa Clara county cities, Fremont and Newark in Alameda County, Santa Cruz and Stanford University.

ecarpenter@examiner.com

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